GP, TV Presenter and Author, Dr Pixie McKenna sheds light on vaginal pH, feminine hygiene tips and why it’s important to care for down below. From using a pH balance wash in the shower to not douching, Dr Pixie McKenna provides all-important feminine hygiene tips to ensure you keep your vagina happy and healthy.
Most women don’t even know the technical terms of their genitals, so it’s no surprise there’s often confusion where the vaginal pH is concerned. Some of us may remember pH from chemistry class - the scale that stretched from acid to alkaline with water in the middle at 7. It’s an acidic environment down there in the vagina, which serves to keep the area free from irritation and infection.
Maintaining pH balance
When teamed with bacteria and yeasts, the pH balance is the thing that keeps the environment perfectly balanced like a finely tuned orchestra. If you tip that balance and raise the pH above 4.5, the environment becomes more attractive to bad bacteria and yeasts, making you susceptible to infections, irritations and odours. Disturbing the pH of the genital tract can be caused by douching, over cleaning, bubble baths, lubricants, sex, the menstrual cycle as well as using personal care products that are not specially formulated for the intimate area.
Getting to know your anatomy and how your body changes with your cycle is very important. If you don’t familiarise yourself with what’s normal for you, how can you ever tell when it’s abnormal? So brush up on the anatomy of the vulva and chart your discharge as it will change throughout your cycle. As a rule of thumb it should not be smelly, discoloured or result in irritation.
Feminine hygiene tips
So how can you help your vagina to be the healthiest it can be? Avoid over washing and use feminine care products that are specifically pH balanced to clean the area. Ordinary shower gels and other products are wholly inappropriate for this area, so always use a feminine hygiene wash to avoid disrupting vaginal balance.
The vagina is self-cleaning on the inside so there is no need for douching. Make sure you dry the area after a bath or shower and remove sweaty gym gear as soon as your work out is done. Adopt a “wear it, wash it” approach for gym kit and any other intimate wear and try to stick to cotton underwear. Anything that creates a dark, moist environment down there can potentially disrupt the delicate pH leading to infections. Familiarise yourself with your secretions and bring any irritation or unusual discharge to the attention of a healthcare professional.
If you want to maintain good genital health then it is important to maintain good overall health with a healthy diet, exercise and moderation where alcohol is concerned. Anything that is affecting your general wellbeing can potentially impact your genital wellbeing.